On September 16th, hot off the heels of surviving California’s latest recall effort, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation aimed at addressing the statewide housing crisis – a critical topic leading up to last week’s election.  The suite of bills, Senate Bills (SB) 8, 9 and 10 and Assembly Bill (AB) 1174, coupled with the recently announced California Comeback Plan, carry the potential to expand housing production, streamline permitting and promote density closer to major employment hubs.

Continue Reading California Enacts New Legislation to Combat Growing Housing Crisis, But Not Without Controversy

The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on August 30 vacated the 2020 Navigable Waters Protection Rule (NWPR) that redefined “waters of the United States” for purposes of Clean Water Act jurisdiction, effectively reinstating the definition in effect prior to 2015.  Under that prior definition, many ephemeral streams and isolated wetlands that were not subject to federal jurisdiction under the NWPR will again be subject to case-by-case determinations of their status.  The case, Pasqua Yaqui Tribe v. EPA, CV-20-00266-TUC-RM (D. Ariz.), is one of several challenging the NWPR, and the outcome leaves unanswered questions about the scope of the court’s ruling and the potential for inconsistent regulations across the nation.

Continue Reading Uncertainty Over ‘Waters of the U.S.’ Definition Continues, as Federal Court in Arizona Vacates 2020 Rule

On Wednesday, July 14, at 10 am, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) held its public hearing on the Department of City Planning’s proposed hotel special permit text .  Over the past two months, the proposal has been considered by the City’s Borough Presidents and Community Boards, with a number of Community Boards voting in support, and a number of Community Boards voting against the City’s proposal to implement a special permit requirement for all new hotels.  At the public hearing, the Commissioners received public comments regarding the proposal. A number of City Council Members, other elected officials, neighborhood residents, and a representative from the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, AFL-CIO (the union for hotel workers in New York) testified in support of the proposal.  A number of other organizations, including the Regional Plan Association and the Downtown Brooklyn Partnership, testified against the proposal. Those who spoke against the proposal questioned its timing, cited lack of any evidence of problems caused by hotels in commercial districts, and noted that the proposal will likely result in significant detrimental economic impacts on the tourism sector and the City’s economy as a whole, given that it will likely slow or stop development of new hotels.  Several Commissioners also mentioned the proposal’s probable economic impacts, and questioned its land use rationale, wondering why hotels should be subject to a higher level of scrutiny than other uses in the Zoning Resolution, the majority of which are not subject to a special permit process.  Some of the Commissioners also suggested that the proposal should be modified, potentially to include a sunset provision or a geographic limitation.  The Planning Commission’s vote will likely occur in August.

Continue Reading Full Summer Calendar at New York City Planning Commission: Hotel Special Permit, Gowanus Rezoning and More

In Alliance for Responsible Planning v. Taylor, the Third District Court of Appeal recently struck down a voter initiative requiring a developer to fund all cumulative traffic mitigation as a condition precedent to project approval as an unconstitutional taking.  More specifically, the Court found that El Dorado County’s Measure E, which was adopted in 2016 and amended the County of El Dorado general plan (General Plan) to require developers to fund traffic improvements prior to the issuance of discretionary approvals needed to develop the remainder of the project, would require a development pay more than its fair share.
Continue Reading Mandate to Provide Traffic Improvements Prior to Project Approval Struck Down

The decades-long battle over organic certification of hydroponically grown foods is poised for resolution, with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals set to decide an appeal by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in a case that seeks to block certification of foods not grown in soil.  On May 19, 2021, CFS filed an appeal asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse a district court decision upholding the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s determination that hydroponically grown foods are eligible for certification under the National Organic Program (NOP).  The outcome of the appeal could have significant implications both for hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables and for other soil-less crops, including mushrooms and sprouts.
Continue Reading Organics Advocates Dig In With Ninth Circuit Appeal Challenging Certification for Hydroponics

Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 7, the “Housing + Jobs Expansion & Extension Act”, which extends and expands California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) streamlining provisions.  As previously discussed in our February blog post, “California Senate Returns Its Focus to Housing in 2021-2022 Legislative Session,” SB 7 is the first bill from the Senate’s “Building Opportunities for All” housing package to be signed and enacted this year.  SB 7 extends through 2025 the streamlined CEQA administrative and judicial review procedures developed for Environmental Leadership Development Projects (ELDPs) under Assembly Bill (AB) 900 in 2011. AB 900 established a process to expedite legal challenges for large housing, clean energy, and manufacturing projects with a capital investment of at least $100 million.  In an effort to increase housing and job opportunities in California, SB 7 expands streamlining eligibility to smaller affordable housing projects.  Specifically, housing projects on infill sites with an investment between $15-$100 million that meet specified labor and environmental standards and include at least 15 percent affordable housing are now eligible under SB 7.  SB 7 also clarifies that the deadline to resolve legal challenges to ELDPs under the expedited judicial review process is 270 days from the filing of the certified record of proceedings, including appeals to the court of appeal and the Supreme Court.
Continue Reading Senate Bill Extends and Expands CEQA Streamlining Process

On Wednesday, June 2, the Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted to proceed with expanding Fire District 1 after receiving a report produced by the Department of Building and Safety, Fire Department, and City Planning Department.  The report analyzed the potential impacts of the expansion of Fire District 1, which prohibits certain construction types in limited areas of the City of Los Angeles, such as Downtown and Hollywood.  The report concluded that the expansion of Fire District 1 would result in an increase in construction and materials cost and would likely reduce the financial feasibility of affordable housing projects and result in fewer projects throughout the City.
Continue Reading Los Angeles City Council’s Public Safety Committee Votes to Move Forward with Expanding Fire Rating Requirements for New Construction

On Monday, May 3, 2021, the New York City Planning Commission (CPC) “referred” the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed zoning text that would mandate a Special Permit for all
Continue Reading NYC Proposed Citywide Hotel Special Permit Moves into the Public Review Process

Yesterday the Los Angeles City Council adopted a motion entitled Building a Safer Los Angeles (“Motion”) that would significantly expand the fire rating requirements for new buildings and restrict the use of light wood-frame construction throughout large parts of the City of Los Angeles.  The Motion is broadly written and, contrary to some reports in the press, it does not call for exemptions based on building size or square footage.
Continue Reading City of Los Angeles Moves to Increase Building Standards for New Construction

Not your average game of patty-cake! Earlier this week, New York’s  First Department, Appellate Division issued its decision related to 200 Amsterdam,[1] overturning the lower court’s decision which would have required 200 Amsterdam to remove several floors of its building in order to comply with zoning.  The lower court determined that the NYC Zoning Resolution did not permit a developer to utilize a portion of a tax lot to merge with a neighboring zoning lot.
Continue Reading Build Me A Building As Fast As You Can

In March, the Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”)[1] will adopt final Regional Housing Needs Assessment (“RHNA”) allocations for cities and counties within the SCAG region.  This 6th RHNA cycle represents the first update to these targets since the passage of key housing legislation, including Senate Bill (“SB”) 35[2], which grants ministerial approval and streamlining of qualifying housing projects if the jurisdiction has failed to meet its RHNA targets.  Housing developers planning for potential investment can look to these production targets to assess regional and city-based needs.  Cities and counties also will update their Housing Element and other planning documents to address the need.
Continue Reading Southern California Counties To Adopt Major Housing Production Targets